Don't Skip The Strategy: Developing Effective Creative For Clinical Trials

You are an Account Director at a marketing agency and you've just won your first patient recruitment account. After you finish celebrating, you comb through the budget and a slow dread creeps up on you. No line item for market research and strategy development? Only six months to enroll patients?

If you've spent any time in the patient recruitment space, you know this scenario occurs frequently. Clinical trial managers are under tremendous pressure to deliver their trials on time and within budget. They are beholden to investors and other stake holders who await data from a completed trial to move forward with their drug development program. Trial managers want patient recruitment to begin as soon as they have the green light. It's no wonder then, that few clinical development teams take time out of this breakneck schedule to ensure that they develop a sound communications strategy for patient recruitment.

In reality, this critical step takes only a few short weeks if done correctly. The extra time spent upfront means more efficient patient enrollment and time saved on the back end. Our experience shows that doing upfront research can triple the response of your advertising efforts. That's right, three times the response for the same media spend! If the number one reason for clinical trial delays is patient recruitment, this time is well worth your investment.



The research process can be divided into three steps:

1. Patient Research

  • Disease state research
  • Market (lifestyle) research

2. Insights and Strategy Development
3. Validating Creative

Gathering the Facts -- Patient Research
Physicians and scientists who develop clinical protocols understand their patients from a scientific perspective. Knowing how to reach that population through effective communications is an entirely different challenge, but scientific in its own right. Trial managers may think, "Why do we need research? We already know our patients."

The answer is data. Your trial needs data to prove the drug's effectiveness. We need data to understand how to reach patients most efficiently. As experienced marketers know, effective creative is not simply a clever idea created in a vacuum. Effective patient recruitment creative stems from research that blends disease state and lifestyle profiles.

When we conduct disease state research, we look to answer the following questions:

  • What are the patient's aspirations?
  • How does their disease impact their daily life and their loved ones?
  • How satisfied are they with their current treatment?
  • What would motivate them to participate in a research study?

When we develop lifestyle profiles, we look to answer the following questions:

  • What kinds of consumers are they? Where do they shop? What products do they use?
  • What are their hobbies? How do they spend free time?
  • What media do they consume? How often?
  • How do they spend time online? In social communities? On blogs?

Patient research can be executed quickly and cost-effectively. With online research panels we can survey specific patient populations within several days, and through syndicated media research we can develop detailed profiles of your patient population.

Analyzing Your Data -- Insights & Strategy
Once you've compiled the research data, you gather insights about your patients and develop a strategy to reach them. Patient recruitment advertising must generate an immediate response -- you want patients to go online, or call, to learn more. In our 20+ years of developing patient recruitment campaigns, we've found that a positive, aspirational message generates the strongest response. While people may connect a negative image to their condition, it's a positive image that elicits the greatest response. People aspire to solutions, not problems. Our research allows us to empathize with patients in a way that motivates them to respond.

The Final Step -- Validating Creative
Once the strategy is developed, your creative team builds executions of the communications strategy and validates them with research to ensure the message is clear and effective. Even though your creative is aligned with your strategy, testing it is necessary to verify that the message will resonate with actual patients. Again, online panels can be used to quickly validate your creative in just a few days.

No matter how tight your timelines or budgets, whether you're planning proactively or mired in a rescue campaign, taking a few short weeks to do your homework can markedly improve the success of your program. Conducting market research, developing strategy and validating creative are part of the scientific process for communication development, and are your ultimate insurance plan for meeting your patient recruitment timelines.

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